Don’t engage Maoists if they use human shields, security forces told

A funeral procession at Sarkeguda village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district. The Union government is drawing flak for the alleged killing of villagers in an encounter between the CRPF and alleged Maoists in the village. File photo: Aman Sethi  

Facing flak for the alleged killing of villagers last month in an encounter between the Central Reserve Police Force and Maoists in Chhattisgarh, the Union government on Friday asked all security forces deployed in the left-wing extremism affected States not to engage Naxalites if they are found to be using innocent people as human shields.

The government is planning a major shift in its rehabilitation policy for Maoists whereby these States will have a uniform surrender policy offering a financial incentive as high as Rs.3 lakh — Rs. 1.5 lakh for surrendering and the remaining amount for depositing an automatic rifle — and a stipend of Rs.2,000 a month for three years to surrendered Naxals.

These crucial points were discussed at a meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs, where representatives of nine States participated along with senior security officials. Besides the changes required in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for security forces operating in the affected areas, the meet discussed the strengthening of security paraphernalia in the affected regions.

“The main emphasis of the SOPs is on how to check the Maoists’ tactic of using human shields and minimise collateral damage in action… They [security forces] have been asked to abandon operations if they find that civilians, particularly women and children, are being used as human shields,” a senior official said.

Security forces have been asked to carry night-vision equipment and resources to illuminate the area of operation to ensure that there are no civilians present when they are engaging with Maoists. They have been asked, if necessary, to cordon off the area at night and conduct the operation only after dawn. Fresh recruits going to the violence-affected areas for the first time will be given special training in jungle warfare and sensitised about local environment, besides being briefed on how to engage with Naxals by avoiding collateral damage.

At present, these States follow different rehabilitation policies for surrendered Maoists, including financial incentives ranging from Rs.1 lakh to Rs.5 lakh for each unit of arms surrendered, depending on its make and firepower. Notably, the Home Ministry announced last year a policy offering an incentive of Rs.15,000 for each deposited AK rifle, Rs.25,000 for each rocket-propelled grenade/sniper rifle and Rs.3,000 for each pistol or revolver.

A senior Ministry official said, “There is need to review the existing surrender policy [for including] with bigger financial incentives. The States have been asked to enhance the money while the Centre will also provide funds. We want uniformity for all States.” The possibility of offering Rs.5 lakh to anyone laying down a light machine gun (LMG) and Rs.3 lakh to those depositing an AK-47 rifle was discussed. The meeting also discussed ways to deal with the large build-up of the military wing of the CPI (Maoist) in Chhattisgarh.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 1:31:51 AM |

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